Dailly adds insult to injury as Royals show lack of leadership

West Ham United 1 Reading 0
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The Independent Football

Trevor Brooking continues good-humouredly to insist that he is not going to leave his position of caretaker manager at West Ham to become full-time boss. "But," he says, "if I'm still here in April or May it will be obvious we are having difficulty filling the post!"

His run of success continued yesterday at Upton Park on what he understatedly called a "sensitive occasion". There had been rumours that Reading's chairman John Madjeski was so incensed by West Ham's attempt to obtain his club's manager Alan Pardew that he would sit with the fans rather than in the directors' box. He changed his mind, but must have realised that Reading's performance lacked the "think-tank" touchline ability of Pardew, whose resignation has not been accepted.

The meeting of clubs so entwined in managerial uncertainty seemed almost like mischief-making by the fixtures computer. The latest thinking is that the Hammers are looking elsewhere for a manager with a bit of clout, while Reading will soon give first-team coach Kevin Dillon Pardew's job.

The players of both clubs were told that all they needed to do was concentrate on the job in hand. Easier said than done, especially for Reading. They faced not only an almost instant defence-splitting West Ham move instigated by Jermain Defoe's vivid footwork, but had to listen to chants of "We've got your manager".

Their discomfort continued, goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann having to block Neil Mellor who had broken clear of the Royals' defence. Defoe then hit a post before Mellor struck the rebound straight at Hahnemann.

Defoe again teased Reading. In the 16th minute he floated a corner directly on to the head of Christian Dailly who snapped his header back beyond Hahnemann for a much-threatened first goal.

The promise of West Ham building on their lead slowly diminished. By half-time Reading were far from revived, but at least appeared to have avoided the possibility of a rout, with James Harper's influence growing in midfield.

Brooking brought on two wide midfielders, Nicolas Alexandersson, making his debut after his loan move from Everton, and Matthew Etherington, but the difference was not immediately obvious.

Reading began to provide Nicky Forster with good service, but Shaun Goater was largely anonymous. Too often the passing out of midfield lacked accuracy. It was a disease that seemed to infect West Ham and, as a result, what had the makings of an increasingly competitive second half turned into a series of speculative balls from Reading into the penalty area.

Curiously, in the 75th minute, Dillon decided to substitute the impressive Harper with Kevin Watson. Significantly, West Ham, who had become careless in possession, now put some passion back into their game and began to offer Defoe more of the ball.

Hahnemann needed to be at his athletic best, first to deflect a powerful header from Alexandersson, then to hold a stern drive from Ian Pearce and finally to steer away Defoe's 25-yarder.

Those chances should have provided West Ham with a greater margin of victory than they eventually enjoyed. But Brooking feels that although West Ham have done well in their opening matches, the side need some fresh faces if they are to maintain their position high in the table.

As for Reading, yesterday they were lacking a number of key players and as Brooking said: "We knew they were a side with spirit, and they certainly showed that."

West Ham United 1 Reading 0
Dailly 17

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 32,634